The High Court in the appeal verdict has confirmed the gallows for 139 out of 152 accused who were sentenced to death by a Dhaka court in a case filed over the killing of 74 army officers and civilians during the 2009 BDR mutiny.
Eight of the 13 other accused were sentenced to life imprisonment by the High Court Monday. The court acquitted four. Another accused had died during the trial.
The three-member High Court bench, led by Justice Md Shawkat Hossain, in an unanimous verdict also sent a total of 185 accused to jail for life, awarded different prison terms to 196 and acquitted 49 others.
Justice Md Abu Zafor Siddique and Justice Md Nazrul Islam Talukder were the other members of the bench that heard the death references and appeals against convictions.
The court termed the verdict a historic one and the judges jointly came up with some observations and recommendations so that such barbaric incident can be avoided in any force in future.
Six among the 846 accused in the case had died during the course of the trial. They were exempted from the charges.
On February 25-26 in 2009, disgruntled members of the erstwhile Bangladesh Rifles (BDR), later rechristened Border Guard Bangladesh, had killed 57 army officers who were deputed at the force and 17 civilians during the mutiny at the force’s Pilkhana headquarters.
The case over the massacre is considered the biggest ever in the country's history in terms of the number of accused. It took two days for the judges to complete delivering the appeal verdict.
On Sunday, both Justice Hossain and Justice Siddique had read out some of their observations and Justice Talukder gave his Monday before the sentencing was announced.
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In its observation, the court said the mutineers’ main objective was to rid the BDR of army officials, and regain supremacy and full control over the paramilitary force. Another one of their objectives was to kill army personnel on sight that day, the court added.
Justice Hossain said many non-commissioned officers and soldiers of BDR were disgruntled over a number of issues, including service benefits. But such carnage cannot be justified over such discontent, he added.
The judge said the mutineers had executed army officers and their innocent family members to fulfil their objectives.
Referring to discriminations that still prevail in various professional sectors in the country, he said professionals should not be driven by ego and there should be no unethical gap between the workers and officers.
“We should not behave like soldiers from the colonial period. They [lower tier men] are our brothers. We are from the same soil,” he said.
Justice Talukder observed that, based on the facts and circumstances, it appeared there was a conspiracy afoot either from internal or external sources to oust the new government formed in 2008.
He said unless the whole incident was plotted, no provocation, no criminal conspiracy, no dissatisfaction and no grievance could justify the atrocities and massacre committed at Pilkhana.
The judge also said that the incident was an unprecedented event in the history of crimes. In that carnage, the nation lost some promising, distinguished, luminous and outstanding army officers and it would take a long time to fill up that vacuum, he added.Justice Talukder added that the offences committed by the disgruntled BDR rebels were shocking, gruesome and diabolical in nature, exceeding all limits of barbarism and incivility, which cannot be accepted and tolerated by the civilized society.
On November 5, 2013, the trial court had sentenced 150 personnel of the now defunct BDR and two civilians to death, and jailed 161 for life for their involvement in the carnage.
It had also handed down rigorous imprisonment to 256 people, mostly BDR soldiers, and acquitted 277.
Apart from this, Lalbagh police had started another one case under the Explosive Substance Act on March 4, 2009.
On July 27, 2010, police submitted the charge sheet against 808 accused. A Dhaka court framed charges against them in August 2011.
The case proceedings, however, is still underway with the court set to resume recording of statements of prosecution witnesses from January 7, 2018.